Chapter 10: Listen Well

Listen Well

I finished a draft of a previous chapter and began working on the next one. After processing my plans, I stepped away to give it space. I spent that time thinking about a dear friend I wrote about earlier, James Graham.

Our phone calls. Our messages. Our notes. Our face-to-face dialogue. When I listened to his story. When he listened to my story. When we, together, listened to the stories of others. How he worked to help many friends bring new chapters into their life stories.

I looked forward to seeing James. I’m now sad I’ll not see him again in the way I normally would.

Many people often say the church would be fine if it wasn’t for, well, people. I understand the intention. So often said with a smile or a giggle, it is actually stated in reference to hurt. We all know about hurt, and we know about how hurt comes from people. But not only have we all been hurt by people, we have also hurt people. I’ve often heard the phrase about how hurt people hurt people. And that is true. Unfortunately, we fail to deal directly and correctly with our hurts. We deny them and act like all is well, while inner emotional bruises turn into bitterness. The silly humor stated with a grin contains deep meaning.

Before we defend our stories, do we listen to the stories of others?

Do we listen well to their stories?

I don’t mean a brief chat. I mean deep dialogue. Honest conversations. True confessions. Open-ended questions and candid answers. No hurries toward conclusions. No rapid defense mechanisms. No placing them in a bubble. No judging or rejecting or escaping.

Talking a little. Listening well.

Today’s culture isn’t crafted to pursue listening. We prefer brief texts, short stories, one-word answers.

What do we need and crave, even when we’re afraid of it? Lengthy discussions at mealtime. Long walks with long talks, mingling peaceful and comfortable silence between the nouns and verbs. Eye-to-eye contact. Questions asked to confirm initial understanding is correct. More questions asked to see what might be, should be, could be done to rejoice or repent or receive or accept or forgive or understand or love.

Having a goal to truly hear and understand instead of insisting on ourselves being heard and understood. Having a hope to create a climate of, “Yes, I care about you, and I want to hear your story.”

Do we create that climate for those around us? Do we craft that mood for those around us?

Sure, not everyone is wired that way. But does that mean we should not learn to listen better? See it as an art. Some are better than others, more natural, better trained early in life. Some have chosen to do all the talking as a method of hiding behind noise to not allow others to notice their deep fears. But all, yes each of us, should set a goal of listening well. Remembering we have two eyes and two ears, and only one mouth.

Talk less. See what is around. Listen well.

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  1. Is listening a strength or a weakness in your life?
  2. Who do you feel most comfortable talking to? Why?
  3. Who do you enjoy listening to? Why?
  4. What can you begin doing to become better at listening well?
  5. Is there anything standing in the way to keep you from taking those steps?


We live a dark and confusing world. Maxwell’s prose and his poetry are just the antidote you’ve been looking for—creative, a bit capricious, and wonderfully uplifting.

Mark Rutland

Executive Director, National Institute of Christian Leadership